Interaction on NGO Accountability: Focus More on Outcomes than Financial Details

The debate on non-governmental organizations’ accountability is really an issue of ”what constitutes relevant information, and to whom specific information should be disclosed,” says InterAction, an alliance of U.S.-based NGOs.

“The discussion about what constitutes accountability under what circumstances and to whom continues. The most important focus of that discussion is what difference the NGO makes to the population it serves,” Barbara Wallace, InterAction’s vice president of membership and standards said in a statement, which was published in “Aid Watch.”

A series of blog posts by Till Bruckner, former Transparency International Georgia aid monitoring coordinator, published in “Aid Watch” has fueled the debate, with Bruckner arguing that nondisclosure appears to be the default position of the U.S. Agency for International Development and some of its partner NGOs when dealing with inquiries about their detailed financial information.

>> Bruckner Hits USAID’s “Low Standards” for Transparency, Accountability

>> Bruckner: USAID Struggles with Transparency

“We deplore the nature of the debate taking place on your blog. Highly inflammatory accusations have been made against NGOs - now proven to be untrue - using faulty research and questionable methodology. Whistleblowers bring disturbing information to light, but also bear responsibility for sharing accurate information based on fact. Instead of igniting a constructive conversation with a different take on accountability and transparency, this blog chose to smear the NGO community using conclusions from incomplete information that fit the author’s premise rather than engage in constructive discussion about what constitutes sufficient transparency, generating a lot of attention, but little constructive change, said Wallace.

 InterAction “purposefully does not define” specific mandates for disclosure.

Wallace explained: “Our members have varying operational models, methodologies and organizational capacities. This makes it almost impossible to compare the raw data from one organization with the raw data of another. The following caution in evaluating comparative detailed financial information may be useful as an example of this pitfall.”

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.